Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Face the Truth
“Post-Paint Boy” is the key to unlocking Stephen Malkmus’ third solo joint, Face the Truth. On the surface it sounds exactly like what Malkmus always does: a jaunty tempo awkwardly dances with Malkmus’ OCD guitar lines, deadpan sarcasm, and apathetic delivery—one which turns “art” into a two-syllable word. Cagily lurking inside such a familiar vibe is a verbal flaying of a “penny rich and dollar dumb” artist who makes “modern minor masterpieces for the untrained eye.” It’s Malkmus’ most unapologetic bitch-slap since “Range Life,” and it’s not just a throwaway line. Face the Truth sounds like Malkmus living through rage, and befitting a man who avoids linearity the way mice skirt herpetologists, he’s not saying at whom or why.
Who can blame him? Musicians, artists, writers, and, sheesh, prolly even some of your friends have talked at you about what they really think about the state of everything today, from that insularly mind-numbing elephant vs. donkey political pissing match to hot-air blowing about the latest supposedly cool whatever, and Truth is, by turns, a noisy, rocking, silly, goofy, and weird invitation to all parties to kindly fuck the hell off. Space-wavy guitar rocker “It Kills” looks for “something I can hang my coat on.” Actual guitar workout “No More Shoes” hijacks the squealing laser-beam guitar peals of Morgen’s “Welcome to the Void” and focuses them into an attack on media overload. Guitar-folk flowers into orchestral-pop sunbursts in “Loud Cloud Crowd,” a song of subtle but steely indignation. And in “Mama,” Malkmus uses wheezy, breezy tenderness to paint one of his most empathic scenarios: “No we didn’t have too much money/ just enough to make the dead ends meet.” This spleen might sound like indolent complaining to some, but during shitstorms of opinion hyperbole, the man who admits he doesn’t know the way out may be the sanest freak in the fog.